J. Gordon Duncan

Culture, Business, Fitness, Etc.

The Disease of Demand in Marriage

Marriage challenges abound. Since becoming a pastor, the single largest counseling issue before me has been dealing with issues surrounding married couples. Oh, issues like substance abuse, pornography, etc are always before the church, but marital conflicts appear to be the front runner.

For example, everyone goes into marriage with certain expectations. Couples have the expectation that once they get married, there are certain actions and support that they will receive from their spouse. There is anticipation of mutuality, kindnesses, and grace. There are expectations surrounding house work, income, sex, and children. Some of these expectations are communicated, and some are assumed.

Underlying most spouses’ expectations is the assumption that their spouse will return their love and affection with at least equal fervor. Basically, the thought is, “If I love and support you, you will love and support me.”

Problems arise, however, when an expectation of return becomes a demand of return. This attitude creeps into the relationship and become a requirement. Demands, though, are deadly in a marriage. One spouse demands that the other at least meet their efforts which is the basis of self-righteousness and not love.

When we read that, we are sure to wonder, “Is it wrong to expect our spouse to give as much we do?” While an expectation might be appropriate, a demand kills. The real challenge in marriage is not trying to get a spouse to match our efforts. The real battle is creating an agenda of change that focuses on self and not spouse.

When couples don’t do this (removing demands and insisting on personal change), the next thing that happens is that couples begin to walk through the motions. Devotion becomes duty, and as CS Lewis says, “Duty is no substitute for love.”

Hope in a marriage cannot be found in the guarantee that a marriage will flourish or that their spouse will change. Instead, hope is found in the person of Christ who loves, forgives, and enacts change. And as a couple, or even just one spouse, shifts their focus from their circumstances to the character of God, the basis of change and hope become clear. It is found in the person of Christ.


July 25, 2017 Posted by | church, church planting, family worship, men, mission, missional | , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Samson as More than Hero or Cautionary Tale

A Once and Future SamsonIf Samson were alive today, he would have a million Twitter followers, tweet things like “great #honey last night what a blast lol”, and the world would love him.  That is, the world would love him until he made every mistake under the sun and TMZ started covering him.

With those things in mind, one must wonder what relevancy does Samson still hold?

Is he a picture of what believers can be when they trust from the Lord and turn from their idols?

Is he a picture of what will happen if men pursue their lusts and thus an antitype of say, Joseph?
Is he a foreshadowing of Christ?

Unfortunately, many practical devotional writings pull Samson out of context and teach purely an exemplary exegesis that treats Samson as a model that can be followed or avoided.  For example, Henry Blackaby in his Experiencing God devotional uses Samson’s life as a pattern to be followed when we have lost spiritual power.  Relating to Samson, he says, “Those around you who have relied upon your strength are discovering that you are not as helpful as you once were.”  To remedy this, he encourages, “If you walk with God in this manner, you will grow in spiritual strength (like Samson) and be used mightily by Him.”

Another example is Steven Lawson’s Men Who Win.  He talks of the great victories that God has brought, “Samson slew the Philistines.  David fought Goliath,” but warns, “Our battles are just as real.  The Canaanites outnumber us.  The Goliaths are waiting for us to grow weary and falter.  The Delilahs are lying.”

Truly, whenever we see a biblical character succumbing to sin, the believer should be on guard lest he fall.  Whenever we see a biblical character achieve victory, we should rejoice that God is gracious.  But these kinds of examples miss the point of Samson, nearly completely.

The takeaway is that God moves, enlivens, empowers, and delivers despite the sinfulness of His people.

With these thoughts in mind, please check out “A Once and Future Samson” available as both a Kindle Single and PDF download.  It is a simple, concise, and hopeful look at God’s work among even the worst of us.

July 24, 2013 Posted by | church, church planting, gospel, men, mission, missional, ruth, training men | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Is a Good Man Hard to Find” is Available

new releaseExcited for the arrival of “Is a Good Man Hard to Find?” in all formats.  Amazon has it listed as the #1 New Release for men, and thanks to all of you, it is already in the Top 50 of both Men’s Issues and Church Leadership.

The design of “Good Man” is to enable invidiuals, families, and churches to develop and sustain efforts to identify and train Godly men.   The book focuses on four areas:  Home Life, Thought Life, Church Life, and Community Life.  I hope this is a simple, helpful resource.  If so, please let folks know about “Is a Good Man Hard to Find?”.

You can find “Is a Good Man Hard to Find?” in several different formats.


Good Man snippet header

July 9, 2013 Posted by | church, church planting, gospel, men, mission, missional, training men | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Why Another Book about Men, Elders, and Leadership – AKA The Genesis of “Is a Good Man Hard to Find?”

Good ManThe genesis of “Is a Good Man Hard to Find?” came about in 2009 as I was preaching a series of sermons about the qualifications of an officer.  SK Church was preparing to nominate, and I was preparing to train men from among the congregation to become elders in the church.

By the end of 2010, elders were installed, and throughout 2011 – 2013, I transitioned from being a solo church planter to leading a session of elders.  In every way, I moved from the theoretical to the practical.

All along the way, I discovered deficiencies in my own leadership, gaps in my convictions, and perceived desires of doing it differently the next time.  God’s grace shown through, the church continued to grow, and my thoughts progressed.

By the end of 2012, I was transitioning from SK to plant Evident Grace Fellowship in Fredericksburg, VA.  My thoughts covered everything from building up the men in my future church, sharing mission and vision with families, and starting the process of training officers again.

I realized that the hopes within the Biblical qualifications for officers in the Bible were actually the hopes that should be instilled and developed within every man in the church.   So, my mind returned to the series in 2010.  By December of 2012, I had developed those sermons into a draft, and in the past three months, they have been edited again into “Is a Good Man Hard to Find?”.

My hopes in publishing this book is that God will use it to encourage families, develops men’s programs, and enable pastors to train and install Godly officers.  High hopes indeed, but they are no less than what God promises in the scriptures.  In all humility, I pray that God brings those hopes to fruition.

You can find “Is a Good Man Hard to Find?” in several different formats.

SmartPhone App

July 8, 2013 Posted by | church, church planting, gospel, men, mission, missional, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Is a Good Man Hard to Find?

Good ManWhy another book about men, Godly men, training Godly men, elders, and all of that stuff?  The simple answer for another book is that we need to keep looking at the scriptures, looking at what we’ve done (and not done), asking good questions, and then we need to look at the scriptures again.

And hopefully, in the process, we will see Godly men grow, be raised up, and reproduce themselves for the church, for the good of everyone involved, and ultimately to the glory of God.

This book is a humble attempt at just those things.  Available July 9th everywhere, “Is a Good Man Hard to Find?” hopes to be an honest confession and guidebook to help us get there.

The cover art was designed by the ridiculously talented Jay Holmes, and any errors within are mine.  I’ve included the Introduction below to give you an idea of where things may go.  Thanks for considering this.

I’ve been through leadership training in a bunch of different arenas.  I’ve been to public school teacher training.  I’ve been to sales meetings.  When I managed an eye doctors’ office, I went to the optometric national conference every year.  As a seminary student, I was trained to death.

In the church, I was trained to be a lay ruling elder and a pastor teaching elder.  All of those involved tests, both written and oral.  Once I became a church planter, I was entrusted with the task of training elders and deacons.

I don’t tell you all of that to say that I know what I’m doing.  I tell you because at this point and time, I wonder if any of us do.

But this book is my attempt to explain things as I see it, and I hope that it will be of some benefit to you, to my church, and to the larger church nationwide.  You see, throughout pastor training (both for me and to others), I’ve noticed a couple of temptations:

Churches often ordain influential, successful men thinking that their earthly success and wisdom will result in spiritual success and wisdom.  That’s possible, but it doesn’t always work out.

Another temptation is to completely focus on doctrine thinking that a right thinking man is a Godly leader and shepherd.  That is possible, but that is not always the case (and it doesn’t always work out well).

Sometimes elders and leaders move from one city to another and think that they should already be made leaders in any new church that they attend.  Again, it might work out, but that kind of assumption doesn’t take into account context or mission.
So what do we do?  What do we emphasize while seeking to be fiercely biblical?

Well, in my humble opinion, I would suggest three essential qualities and one really strong recommendation in a Godly elder.  Now, let me say this.  These should be qualities that every Godly man aspires to, so they should apply to deacons, leaders, and men in general, but this book’s emphasis is on elders.

First, that man must have a personal holiness that enables him to lead his family in a self-sacrificing manner like Christ led the church.  We will call that Home Life.

Secondly, that man must have a firm and deep theology that is consistent with the body to which he hopes to lead.  We will call that Thought Life.

Thirdly, that man must have the ability to perform the office to which he aspires.  If he seeks to be an elder, he must be able to shepherd.  If he seeks to be a deacon, he must be able to serve.  We will call that Church Life.

And finally, I would suggest from both practical and Biblical example that that man should have non-wavering agreement with the specific mission of that church.  We will call that Community Life.

To get us there with these thoughts, we look at the biblical qualifications of a leader in scriptures.  Those qualifications will expound on the ideas surrounding our first two qualities (Home Life and Thought Life).  Then we will look at the ability to shepherd (Church Life), and then we will conclude by discussing the mission of the church (Community Life).

Hopefully, in the end, we will all walk away with Godly men who lead their families well, have a firm and consistent theology, who own the mission of their church, and have the ability to live out the office to which they take vows.

Thanks for taking the time to even consider these things.

Gordon Duncan
June 2013

July 2, 2013 Posted by | church, church planting, gospel, men, mission, missional, training men | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Introduction from “Joy in Trials”

The Book of Ruth is a fascinating read.  It covers so much of the life experience.

Marriage?  Check
Death?  Check
Children?  Check
Loss?  Check
Faith?  Check
Loss of Faith?  Check

You get the idea.  This story about a wandering family wandering back home with almost nothing and finding a new life is one of the most beautiful pictures of redemption in all of the Bible, and not because everything works out.

Just because people get married and have a new home and family does not mean that everything works out.  This is a book about pain and suffering that finds its way to joy because it gives the reader the luxury and joy of watching God work over the long course of time.

Ruth lets the reader observe God’s hand at work in almost every circumstance of life.  You get to patiently wait to see God move without you having to get your hand dirty.  And because of that, this can be one of the more faith-inspiring books in the whole Bible.  But just like Ruth, you have to be patient and wait to see it all come together.

For me as an author, revisiting old sermon notes about Ruth was a joy and comfort because I did it during a six month period where I lost both parents and decided upon a job change.  I needed to be reminded of God’s big work on my behalf, but even more so, I needed to be reminded that God does all of these things for His glory and in His timing.

That truth brings joy in trials both as a reality and as a book.

Thanks for giving this a shot.  I never take the reader for granted.

If you would like to purchase or recommend “Joy in Trials”, it is available digitally at Amazon and on paperback at Lulu.

November 13, 2012 Posted by | church, gospel, mission, missional, ruth | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Celebrating 15 Years of Being Married to Amy

Do any of us really remember what we were like in 1996?  Wow that is a long time ago.  I was an English teacher just a couple of years out of college in Rocky Mount, NC.  I had short hair and enough free time to play guitar 2-3 hours a day.

Well, Amy and I were married 15 years ago today, and so many things have changed since then.  Throughout everything that a marriage brings, I have never regretted that decision or that day once.

I love you, Amy.

I wasn’t a pastor back then, and in fact, I had sworn to Amy and others that I would never be one.  However, being one now is not necessary to know that long-lasting marriages are rare.  Now, after pastoring Sovereign King for over 5 years, I know that persevering marriages are ultra-rare.  Now, more than ever, I don’t take us for granted.

It is not that we haven’t been through trials.  We’ve actually been through a ton:  career and job changes, infertility, multiple surgeries (shoulder, foot, hernia), financial struggles, starting a business and a church, five moves, seminary, long-term health issues like hypo—thyroidsim and poly-cystic ovarian syndrome, and the list goes on and on.  God has been incredibly gracious through all of them reminding us of His great love to us and strengthening our love to each other.

That love that God has strengthened in us comes from the simple fact that we like each other.  We prefer no one else’s company above each other.  Our relationship started out as a friendship that turned into flirting that blossomed into love.  That doesn’t mean that we aren’t blessed with many friends (we are), but we never forget that the friendship that deserves our highest attention is ours.

After pastoring for a few years, I know that not many marriages make it 15 years.  In fact, lots of folks will go through 2-3 during that time.  We take no pride in these years as we know our 15 are a testimony of God’s grace shown to us.  Without it, we would have wrecked this thing a long time ago.  But it does help to be married to someone you like.

I love Amy.
I love her smile and her laugh.
I love her undying confidence in me.
I love her sarcasm.
I love her shape.
I love her honesty.
I love her hope in Jesus.
I love her free spirit.
I love her wisdom.

I am blessed above all men.

April 6, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , | 1 Comment

A Dozen Do-Nots: Making Your Wife Happy

Dozen-DoNotsA Dozen Do-Nots is part of an on-going series.  You will also find posts about the Dozen from Mike Askew at http://bit.ly/4nnOim.  The idea is to present 12 simple things to avoid in the most practical of areas.

Since the Dozen Do-Nots of Marriage Communication was so popular, I submit another in that line of thinking, but this one is geared toward the men.  I hope you enjoy.

A Dozen Do-Nots:  Making Your Wife Happy

  1. Do not pass a sink full of dishes.
  2. Do not miss an opportunity to pray with your wife.
  3. Do not go to bed angry
  4. Do not complain about your wife to others.
  5. Do not compare your wife to your ex.
  6. Do not pass up a chance to walk with your spouse.
  7. Do not lose your patience when your wife changes her mind.
  8. Do not compare your job to hers (whether she works outside or inside the home).
  9. Do not think that the evenings are your time to relax and her time to work.
  10. Do not think that your experiences negate her opinion.
  11. Do not assume everything that your wife does for you is your right.
  12. Do not forget to open the door for her.

Marriage Communication – http://bit.ly/IERbQ

Being Civil to Others – http://bit.ly/4nnOim

Mountain Biking – http://bit.ly/vdZ6

August 25, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Dozen Do-Nots: Marriage Communication

A Dozen Do-Nots is what I hope will be an on-going series.  You will also find posts in this series from Mike Askew at http://bit.ly/4nnOim The idea is to present 12 simple things to avoid in the most practical of areas.  To kick things off, I present 12 things not to do when trying to communicate with your spouse.  I hope you enjoy.

A Dozen Do-Nots:  Marriage Communication

  1. Do not assume you know what your spouse is thinking.
  2. Do not assume your expectations are known.  Communicate them.
  3. Do not say the word, “What.”  Say the word, “Yes.”  It is a softer way to respond.
  4. Do not give another woman a compliment that you haven’t already given your wife.
  5. Do not chase your spouse through a room trying to make your point.
  6. Do not befriend or communicate with ex’s via social marketing.
  7. Do not criticize your spouse in front of your children.
  8. Do not miss an opportunity to complement your spouse.
  9. Do not use similes.  For example, “You are just like…”
  10. Do not eat dinner in front of the TV.
  11. Do not apologize for your spouse’s hurt feelings.  Apologize for what you have done.
  12. Do not say one thing in order to communicate something else.  Say what you mean to say.


August 18, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , | 7 Comments